On the road to Nirvana*
The late 80s/early 90s was a vibrant time for the American alternative rock scene (Lollapalooza started in 92, I think), partly in reaction to the excesses of the LA hairspray scene, and out of this broader scene came grunge.
So, for those habitual list makers among us, this begs the question: which bands were grunge and which were simply alt rock?
Here’s my tuppence on it (sadly in alphabetical order, but I’m sure you understand, maybe even sympathise). I’ll keep updating this as I dredge the faintest recollections of more bands from that era out of my befuddled, ageing memory. One or two in the alt rock list were perhaps more mainstream, but it’s my list and I’ll include who I want. Except for QOTSA, I’m not including anything after about ’95, that’s another barrel of monkeys.
There’s a good case to say that grunge was simply the Seattle/Washington State branch of the alt rock scene, but I think it was a bit more than just that. In pursuit of some degree of sanity I’m including both grunge predecessors and Seattle bands as grunge bands, even if you could make a case for some of them not being grunge (not least Mother Love Bone; Andy Wood was coming from a quite different place), and I’m counting college rock bands as being alt rock. Hey, it was all left of the dial. But if you’d like I can break this woolly dichotomy into sublists! No, please don’t run away…
Grunge (and its nearest and dearest)
7 Year Bitch, Alice in Chains, Bikini Kill, The Blackouts, Brad, Bratmobile, Earth, The Fastbacks, The Fluid, Foo Fighters, Gas Huffer, Girl Trouble, The Gits, Green River, Hater, Hole, Love Battery, Mad Season, Malfunkshun, The Melvins, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Satchel, Screaming Trees, Skin Yard, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Sunny Day Real Estate, Tad, Temple of the Dog, The Thrown-Ups, Truly, U-Men, Wellwater Conspiracy
Alt rock (and its forerunners / 29x the pain)
Bad Brains, Bad Religion, Beck, Belly, Black Flag, Blind Melon, Blood Circus, Boy Dirt Car, The Breeders, Buffalo Tom, Butthole Surfers, Cat Butt, Celebrity Skin, Chemistry Set, Dangerous Birds, Dead Kennedys, Dinosaur Jr, The Dwarves, Echobelly, Faith No More, Steve Fisk, Fugazi, Galactic Cowboys, Terry Lee Hale, Helmet, Henry Rollins Band, Hüsker Dü, Jane’s Addiction, Jesus and Mary Chain, Jesus Lizard, King’s X, L7, The Lemonheads, Liquid Jesus, Lupe Diaz, Masters of Reality, Meat Puppets, Mindfunk, Ministry, Minor Threat, Naked Raygun, The Nights and Days, Nine Inch Nails, Paw, The Pixies, Poison Idea, Presidents of the United States of America, Queens of the Stone Age, Rage Against The Machine, REM, RHCP, The Replacements, Revolting Cocks, Savage Republic, Scratch Acid, Shonen Knife, Skinny Puppy, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, Sugar, Supersuckers, Swallow, Tool, The Walkabouts, Warrior Soul, The Wipers, Wool
Right, who have I forgotten?
* The astute among you will notice I’ve borrowed the subtitle of Gina Arnold’s book for the Page title. I must re-read it some time; who knows, I might even review it. From memory, much of the book was about why The Replacements were totally awesome and Nirvana were almost as good, and how cool it was to live in SF in the late 1980s (which to be fair it probably was). But I do need to revisit it.